Q&A: David O. Russell
Exploring the psyche forged a bond.
David O. Russell has had more than his share of highs and lows. Nailed, his Washington satire starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Biel that began filming in 2008, ran into financial problems and still hasn't been completed. But the director staged a triumphant return with 2010's The Fighter, which collected seven Oscar noms (including best director) and took home two acting trophies. Now he has turned his attention to The Weinstein Co.'s Silver Linings Playbook, starring Cooper, Robert De Niro and Jennifer Lawrence in a study of a bipolar man trying to regain his bearings. It will have its world premiere Sept. 8 in Toronto.
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Mark Wahlberg originally was attached to star. What happened?
David. O. Russell: My understanding is the deal could never be closed. I don't really know why. But whatever the issue was, we were getting very close to production. I really didn't know what to do.
THR: How did Bradley Cooper come on board?
Russell: We'd had a bunch of meetings over the years -- I met him at a party and met him at Bob De Niro's house once -- and we would say we wanted to work together. We were talking about doing Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and The Bends, a project I wrote, a kind of cousin to Vertigo that's still around.
THR: What drew you to him?
Russell: I knew he had this anger and this edge from the characters he played around Wedding Crashers; he had a sort of intensity and broodingness that was palpable. You could feel that in him. And we talked about how that had been something he had been through and had since moved beyond in many ways -- he now is a very sincere, open and vulnerable person -- and I thought that was an interesting combination.
THR: How did you prepare for the film?
Russell: I visited this institution where we shot and spoke to a lot of people who I knew were bipolar, and I conveyed that to him. The unexpected thing is there are people that I have known -- high-functioning professors -- and you would never know if they weren't on their medication that they were different. And Bob De Niro had points of view about it; he and I each had our own experiences with people who have been like these characters, and he and Bradley had taken a shine to each other.
THR: Your next film, about the Abscam corruption scandal, will be with Cooper, too. At one point, it was called American Bullshit.
Russell: It is untitled at present. We are going to shoot in February, somewhere on the East Coast, and it also has Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. And we've also discussed American Sniper, a property Bradley has acquired. I'm really excited to work with him again. He is like an athlete who wants to burst out of the blocks and wants to stretch in all these new ways.